Chip In and Let's Get Started!
Setting the Tone
How class begins can set the tone for the rest of the class period. There are different strategies that can help get students into a focused mindset and allow for high productivity. Last year, I began the adventure of flexible seating. We’ve added short stools, tall stools, office chairs, bean bags, crates, floor pillows, benches, a work nook, and several other working areas. The goals of flexible seating were to:
Maximize Student Productivity & Inspire Creativity
Maximizing student productivity and inspiring creativity go hand-in-hand. As a teacher of writing, I know that it’s not a favorite or strong subject of many students. When I personally need to accomplish something (especially something that takes more sustained effort), I do not choose to sit in hard blue chairs. With this in mind, I set out to create options for students to select a seat that would allow them to be productive each day. When students feel comfortable, they often feel more inspired and creative. I’ve witnessed this first hand and been reaffirmed through student feedback.
Support and Encourage Personal Responsibility
As a middle school teacher (really the goal of any teacher), we want our students to become independent and personally responsible. Selecting a seat is a big responsibility. Students know that they have goals to accomplish, and their seat should help them achieve those learning goals. Choosing different seats each day is encouraged as opportunities to explore what works and what doesn’t work. Students can always discretely move during class if a spot isn’t working. If a student’s seat is not working, they know I always have the right to move them for the sake of their learning. They may hear me quietly ask, “Is your seat working, or would you like to try another one?” If students are moved, we try again the next day where they take personal responsibility to pick their own seat. In the end, we want students to have the life skill of making choices, reflecting on their choices, and adjusting to achieve success.
One challenge that came up with flexible seating and up to seven classes of students each day was how to take attendance. It was a laborious process to search the room for students or call off names to do attendance each day. What a waste of time! I set off to find a way to quickly take attendance which led to… Chip In!
As students enter the classroom, they put their assigned number chip into a bucket. I can quickly look at which chips are left on the counter, cross-check with the roster, and take attendance in a fraction of the time.
What began as a way to take attendance has morphed into so much more.
There are two response options, one in each bucket. This is a very quick procedure that can serve multiple purposes:
After students chip in and sit down, they have a bell ringer that is often connected to the chip in responses. This again gives focus and a really quick, meaningful formative assessment to guide future instruction, intervention, and enrichment. The Chip In! strategy works for ALL grades and ALL subject areas. Get some chips, a bucket, and create responses that fit for your class!
Don’t you sometimes wish students could just see inside your head and understand exactly what you are thinking? That may be every teacher’s dream. If someone would invent a tool that allowed students to see inside our heads they would become a millionaire! Unfortunately, this invention hasn’t been created yet, so we need to find a way for students to “see” what we are thinking through strategic teaching methods. Marcia Dove and Andrea Honigsfeld call this idea “making thinking visible” in their newest book Co-Teaching for English Learners: A Guide to Collaborative Planning, Instruction, Assessment, and Reflection. In their book, they give several strategies for making thinking visible for students so that they can begin to magically see inside our teacher heads to increase reading and writing skills.
Think Alouds are one way that makes thinking visible for students. It seems so simple. Just talk about what you are already thinking, yet it is extremely powerful for students. Teachers can model their thinking by making text-to-text, text-to-self, and text-to-world connections. Check out this video to see a Think Aloud in action:
A Write Aloud provides a scaffold for students to guide them through the process of writing. Teachers can model a piece of writing so students can see the steps and procedures in the writing process. Throughout the process, the teacher explains verbally what he or she is thinking. The teacher can talk about why they selected a particular vocabulary word, phrase, transition word, or structure. Write alouds can be done with one teacher, or in a co-teaching partnership. In a co-teaching partnership, one teacher can do a think aloud while the other teacher takes notes or writes out what the other teacher is thinking in a structured format (or with a graphic organizer). Another idea is to have one teacher think aloud and write out what they are thinking, and then the other teacher performs a separate think aloud to show the differences in their writing and thinking processes. If you have a paraprofessional, it would be helpful to give them a frame for the think aloud so they can assist and/or provide other think aloud strategies.
A Scaffolded Comprehend Aloud is another version of a Think Aloud. While think alouds support different reading and writing strategies, Dove and Henigsfeld believe that scaffolded comprehend alouds “make thinking visible about processing and analyzing the language of complex readings at the word, sentence, and text level” (85). Dove and Henigsfeld provide the table below with different sentence starters (85-86). Each content area, and grade level, may have to adapt these, but this list can provide a start to using think alouds and/or scaffolded comprehend alouds.
Think Alouds, Write Alouds, and Scaffolded Comprehend Alouds are three great strategies to make our thinking visible to students. They provide a way for students to see inside our heads, model good reading and writing strategies, and allow students to use critical-thinking skills.
If you would be interested in trying any of these out with students, reach out to an instructional coach, or I would be happy to come out and model them beside you.
This post brought to you by Katie Miller, K-12 EL Implementation Associate
One of the goals I hear most consistently from teachers is their desire to get their students to think more deeply and to be more cognitively engaged in the content they are studying. I have the distinct privilege of getting to be in many classrooms and here are some brilliant ways I’ve seen teachers shift the cognitive load from themselves to their students.
If you would like help with implementing any of these four metacognative approaches, or any metacognitive approach for that matter, consider reaching out to your Instructional Coache(s) or one of us from the Secondary Curriculum and Instruction team.
This post brought to you by Heather Willman, APOSA overseeing Secondary Curriculum and Instructional Coaching
Have you tried to incorporate a Proficiency Scale from one of a course's Prioritized Learning to assess an activity you currently use in your classroom?
I recently had the opportunity to collaborate with a biology teacher who was having his students investigate the contribution of scientists who helped to discover and reveal the structure of DNA. We decided this activity could best be assessed using the Biology Proficiency Scale for "Obtaining, evaluating, and communicating information." In order for students to be considered 'proficient' in this Prioritized Learning, they would need to meet the following criteria as listed in the Proficiency Scale: "Students can evaluate and interpret the validity and reliability of claims, methods, and designs. Then they can synthesize a synopsis of the material and communicate that information (eg. orally, graphically, in writing and/or mathematically)."
This Proficiency Scale is at the 'Apply' and 'Evaluate' levels of Bloom's Taxonomy and thereby requires a different type of assessment than a multiple choice or short answer structure. In our planning sessions for this activity, we found that we would have to tailor our assessment strategy in a way that is different than the traditional objective type questions that are often asked of our students.
In the article "Three Key Questions on Measuring Learning” (Education Leadership 2018), Jay McTighe attends to the idea that as educators change their focus from knowledge based assessments to skill based assessments, they need to adjust their measurement tools from objective type questions with simple point values to subjective questions that level a student along a proficiency continuum. To show proficiency in a skill, students need to use knowledge to perform that skill and show their understanding. In this particular activity, students would need to show that they could communicate both orally and in writing that they are able to synthesize the information about our understanding of DNA. We decided on the following structure for the lesson and assessment:
The Lesson Plan for our “Jigsaw/Gallery Walk” Framework
Day 1 | Individual student - Obtaining information:
Students were assigned to a scientist and given one of three questions to answer about the scientist's contribution in the discovery of DNA. The students were informed that their contribution was critical for their group's success.
Day 2 | Research Group - Synthesize ideas, evaluate information, and create the poster:
Students brought their research to their group for a collaborative poster design project. The groups were given a criteria for questions that needed to be answered on the poster. Students were encouraged to be creative in their poster design.
Day 3 | Research Group - Finalized the poster and presentation:
Students polished both their poster and planned how they would present to their home group.
Day 4 | Home Group - Gallery Walk Communication:
The home group consisted of six students. Each student had the opportunity to present their own research and poster to the other students in their home group. The presenter was given a feedback template consisting of four parts:
Day 5 | Individual - Assessment:
The students were asked to communicate in writing a synthesized synopsis of the material.
In summary, one can see that this lesson pushed students to move beyond knowledge acquisition into synthesis. The use of a Jigsaw/Gallery Walk where the students could get feedback from peers and the final written assessment where the teacher could give feedback helped to drive student learning and move the students toward proficiency on the Prioritized Learning.
This post brought to you by Dan Devine, Secondary Implementation Associate
Finding a video on YouTube and inserting it into a lesson often feels like a no-brainer.
Want to introduce a concept in 10 minutes or fewer? Find a video!
Want an activity any substitute teacher could easily facilitate? Have her show a video!
Want a way for students to review an idea outside of class? Link a video to class website!
Unfortunately, although videos are often easy to find and play, they’re not always what is best for student learning. Time and time again, educational best practices show us that if students are really learning the material it’s because they are reading, writing, and/or speaking about their thinking.
Does that mean video has no place in the classroom? That’s not at all what I’m saying. Rather, we need to be intentional about why and how we use video as an instructional tool. We need to ensure that our students are thinking about what they are watching.
With each video you show in your classroom, there are some key things to consider (1) before, (2) during, and (3) after you hit play.
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